Revelation 7: 2 – 4, 9 – 14
1 John 3: 1 – 3
Matthew 5: 1 – 12
Today we pause to recognize, honor and venerate the Saints. Throughout the Church Year we celebrate specific days for saints. Men and women were widely recognized for their heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace, and their causes went through the process of canonization, and they are listed on the Roman Calendar.
The process for canonization usually takes years and much scrutiny of the life, the works, and the writings of the person, and usually the need of two miracles attributed to their intercession.
These are the saints who can be venerated with various devotions, whose names adorn church’s and societies, and whose images can be found on holy cards and medals. We call upon them to intercede for us in our various needs. Often they are patron saints for very specific needs or conditions that were part of their earthly life. Saints like Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Therese, the Little Flower. Saint Anthony dressed in brown, something’s lost and must be found, and the coal miner’s daughters in Scranton pray—Good Saint Ann, get me a man.
The early Christians began to commemorate the members of their communities who died as witnesses to the faith. By the fourth century various Christian Communities set aside a day to remember and honor the martyrs of their area: this observance was soon expanded to include other saintly people. In the Ninth century these observances became so widespread that Pope Gregory IV set November 1st as All Saints Day. It is a day to honor all who have gone before us as examples of heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace.
Twice I have mentioned that saints practiced heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s Grace. These two qualities can be found in the definition of Saints in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism speaks of a saint in this way, “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.” CCC 828. This definition points out that the two basic qualities for Sainthood are, heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace. These set a high standard, but probably not as high as the standard that we might set.
How do you define a Saint?
Usually when we begin describing the qualities of a saintly person, they are at such a high level of holiness that few people could achieve it, and certainly not any ordinary Catholic. Our standards might include things like, spending the entire day in prayer, being without sin (only Jesus and the Blessed Mother would qualify), always joyful, never losing patience or temper, long suffering, and the list could go on.
Thank God that the Church, while having high standards for canonization, does not have impossible standards. Pope, now Saint, John Paul II canonized 110 saints during his pontificate.
By our Baptism each one of us is called to sainthood. In the First Letter of John we are reminded “what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”
As God’s children, we are heirs to his kingdom. Our Father in Heaven has big plans for us, and a magnificent inheritance awaits us—spending eternity in the midst of the Glory of God in Heaven.
How are we to live so as to receive this inheritance?
We are called to live lives of heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace. Whatever state of life is ours, and whatever situations we find ourselves in each day, be mindful of who we are and what inheritance awaits us.
How can we live lives of heroic virtue, and fidelity to God’s grace?
Jesus teaches us in the Gospel about those who will inherit the Kingdom. In other words, how to become a saint. His list is, the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for righteousness, those insulted and persecuted for being a follower of Jesus.
These will be blessed in many ways, and ultimately receive a great reward in heaven.
Most likely we all have known people who epitomized these qualities, and we can easily imagine them in heaven. In addition to looking around us for those who are in those situations or states that Jesus calls Blessed. Acknowledge how blessed they are and pray that they might persevere. Look also within ourselves. How can we imitate those who we see are Blessed? How can we take on and/or accept the situations and qualities, Jesus tells us make one truly Blessed? This is the path to Sainthood, which is ultimately the path to Heaven.
As we honor the saints who have gone before us, may we also recognize those living saintly lives in our midst and support, pray for, and imitate them.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.